If you are going to shoot a "first buck," you can't do much better than the one Chris Dwyer shot last fall. (September 2009)
Dallas deer hunter Chris Dwyer's first buck was a monster, no doubt. The 5 1/2-year-old Bosque County buck grossed 207 B&C points and weighed 160 pounds! Photo courtesy of Chris Dwyer.
Late last November, Chris Dwyer just wanted to shoot a buck on a Bosque County ranch so he could put some venison in his freezer before having to return to classes the following morning at the Health Science Center in San Antonio. And if he scored, it would be his first deer ever.
Dwyer, 24, and a resident of Dallas, said he had more than enough gun to get the job done: a 7mm Remington Magnum. Dwyer said he had been invited to hunt on the RSP Ranch west of Clifton by a friend, Jeff Watson, whose grandfather owns the ranch.
Dwyer not only got his venison on that cold, sunny Sunday morning just after Thanksgiving, but he also got his name listed in the Texas Big Game Awards program records book. That first buck of his was the largest free-ranging buck ever taken in Bosque County -- an incredible 17-point, non-typical whitetail that grossed 207 Boone and Crockett Club points and had a net score of 201 6/8 points.
Dwyer's buck placed second in Region 3 of the Texas Big Game Awards Program behind a 217 2/8 net B&C buck taken by Mike Murski of Dallas on a high-fenced ranch near Meridian, the Bosque County seat. Another high-fenced Bosque County buck taken during the 2008-2009 season by Rick Meritt, also near Meridian, netted 201 1/8 points and placed third in the Region 3 competition.
The largest buck ever recorded in Bosque County was taken by William Hansen during the 2006-2007 season and netted 218 5/8 Boone and Crockett points but also was taken on a high-fenced ranch.
The Texas Big Game Awards Program is divided into eight regions, or ecological areas, that include the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, Cross Timbers (Region 3), Post Oak Savannah, Edwards Plateau, Pineywoods, Coastal Plains and South Texas. The program originally awarded hunters who harvested white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope, but recently added desert bighorn sheep.
Awards are presented to hunters, and to landowners upon whose land the animals were taken, at annual regional banquets. The awards include those for scored entries, landowners, first big-game harvest and a youth division. The program does not have separate categories for low- or high-fenced ranches.
In an effort to have a larger celebration, program director David Brimager said this year's regions 2 and 3 banquets will combine into one banquet on Sept. 19 in Abilene.
"I have hunted birds since I was 12, but I only started hunting deer two years ago," Dwyer said. "This was my first deer."
Dwyer said he was relying on Watson to help him judge the size of a buck if they saw one that Sunday morning. It would be his last day to hunt before having to return to school.
"Jeff already had shot his buck, so he went with me that morning to a double box blind," Dwyer said. "There was a feeder on the other side of a pond, and we were watching seven does at the feeder about 160 yards away around 8 a.m. when the buck just popped out of the brush. He pretty much cleared the does away and had his rear to me when Jeff raised his binoculars and told me he was a pretty good buck.
"I have a 7mm Remington Mag. rifle that I learned can really pound you while sighting it in. But I wasn't thinking about that as I watched the buck. He finally turned broadside to us and I shot him through the lungs. He went down right there."
Dwyer's buck had 9 scoreable points on the right side and 8 points on the left. The right main beam circumference measured 5 inches and the left measured 4 7/8.
"He was judged to be 5 1/2 years old," Dwyer said. "We didn't weigh him before we quartered him, but he was estimated to weigh about 160 pounds."
Watson said he was somewhat surprised at just how large the antlers were on Dwyer's buck. "I knew from watching him through the binoculars that he was a nice buck, but he turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought," Watson said. "A lot of times, a buck gets smaller as you walk up to him. Chris' buck just got bigger."
Bosque County, an almost 990-square-mile area south of the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex, got its name from Spanish explorer Marques de San Miguel de Aguayo, who in 1721 camped near the Brazos River close to a large tributary he named the Rio del Bosque, or Bosque River. Bosque in Spanish, means "woods."
When settlers formed the county in 1854, they named it after the river. The fertile, mineral-rich soil found throughout the limestone-laden, rolling hills of Bosque County are said to be its most important natural resource because wildlife and vegetation depend so heavily upon it.
Although Bosque County produces many whitetail bucks with respectable racks annually, only a few high-fenced deer-breeding or commercial-hunting operations have produced bucks scoring 140 or more B&C points. Many of the high-fenced ranches have been stocked with large whitetails obtained from licensed deer breeders in an effort to raise deer with exceptional antlers. That's what makes a buck in the class of Dwyer's monster non-typical taken on a low-fenced ranch such a phenomenal one.
Prime ingredients for big deer anywhere outside selective breeding facilities for captive deer is age, exceptional food sources and genetics. It is evident at 5 1/2 years that Dwyer's buck had achieved great antler growth. Minerals from the Bosque County soils no doubt helped produce the No. 3 ingredient, and wise management by the ranch owner helped complete the formula.
"We are right at the top of the Hill Country," said Roy Eddins, owner of the 800-acre RSP Ranch whose name is derived from the initials of two family members and himself. "We have lots of good water and cover for the deer and we don't do any commercial hunting. It is hunted only by family members and friends. We feed year 'round, about half corn and half protein called Antler Max. In fact we just added four new feeders."
Eddins said his ranch is "heavily manicured" and has lots of pecans, oaks and cedars. "A Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist told me we have a lot of different types of browse that benefits the deer," Eddins said. "We have been feeding the deer for eight years now, but they feed on natural foods more than they do the feed.
Although Eddins does not know what the buck-doe ratio is, the buck
population is extremely high. "My place used to be a cattle ranch, but now it's just a beautiful place with lots of wildlife," he said. "There are a lot of hills and we have tried to make it a really beautiful place by clearing out a few places. We have two really nice lakes that benefit the wildlife, too."
Eddins said he has not implemented any kind of strict management program of his own for the deer on his ranch. "We follow the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommendations," Eddins said. "We really haven't taken very many deer off the ranch."
Eddins said no one had ever reported seeing Dwyer's buck before it was shot. "We have had several 10- and 12-pointers taken, but we never have seen a really monster buck. Most of our deer average around 135 pounds, but I think Chris' buck weighed somewhere around 160 pounds. It was a really fine deer and I'm proud for him."